An Erieite appetite: Raj Mahal's Indian cuisine

Faye Clark photoFaye Clark photoRating: 4 out of 5 stars

Price: Moderate

Anyone who has gone through Mercyhurst’s Welcome Week has had the core values of the college drilled into their brains.

We are told to be socially merciful, globally responsible, compassionately hospitable, intellectually creative, reflectively aware ambassadors of service.

We are put on buses and sent across Erie to donate our time all over the community. We are encouraged to continue volunteering, and some of our classes require it.

Service is an important part of that mission, but it isn’t the entire mission.

At its core, we’re supposed to learn about not just the world we live in, but the community we are part of. We can’t help anyone if we don’t know who to help, and we can’t be responsible if we aren’t sure what we’re supposed to be responsible for.

Traveling around the city of Erie and knowing what it has to offer, or just seeing the world beyond the window of your dorm room – all of that is essential to the college experience.

Eating out is one way to achieve that goal. It gets you off campus and into the community.

Raj Mahal on West 12th Street just off of I-79 is a small, buffet-style restaurant serving authentic Indian food. Driving in, I was surprised by how full the parking lot was. The building itself is not showy, but it is still easy to spot on the right, heading west on 12th Street.

Even though the place was busy, we were seated quickly and were able to go to the buffet right away. They served a type of flat bread called naan and several varieties of chicken cooked with different sauces and dessert. It was not a gigantic buffet, but there was enough variety there to serve varying tastes.

I have never been to an Indian restaurant before, and so I tried a little bit of everything. The chicken and vegetables were good, familiar and a little spicy. Chickpeas have an odd taste and texture to them, something that takes a little getting used to. If you are sensitive to textures like guacamole or cottage cheese, I do not recommend them.

Gulab Jamun looks a little bit like doughnut holes that have been soaking in sugar water. I had no idea what they were, so I scooped up a few and stuck them on my plate, and they were delicious. They were very sugary and rich. I was not able to identify the spices in them at first, so the only way I could describe them was to say they tasted like Christmas. Later, we realized the spice was chai.

For the adventurous or people who just want to try something new, Raj Mahal at 2740 West 12th Street is a great place to sit down and enjoy a meal with family or friends.